A year ago, I found myself at the Gerald R. Ford presidential museum in Grand Rapids. Now, I probably didn’t agree with Ford’s politics, but something genuinely struck me about both him and his wife, Betty. They were both fairly likable figures perhaps not dealt the best hand in terms of timing (with Ford basically becoming president sort of as a best-of-bad-options situation) and result (with Ford’s presidency overshadowed by his pardon of Nixon, which ensured that he was a half-term president). But Betty Ford was a fairly progressive first lady no matter the party, and she proved it by presenting forward views on a national stage, and then following through with them after her time as president ended. Some highlights of this woman’s life:
(photo of American History Museum portrait via dbking’s Flickr page)
- 1975 Boldly for the era, Betty Ford spoke openly on the topics of pre-marital sex, abortion and marijuana usage, most notably in a “60 Minutes” interview where she said she would be understanding if her daughter chose to have an affair.
- 1978 A year after leaving the White House, Ford entered the Long Beach Naval Hospital to treat addictions to painkillers and alcohol — a high-profile personal defeat. Afterwards, she became an advocate for helping others in her position.
- 1982 Ford turned her personal problems into something for the greater good of society by starting the Betty Ford Center, which has helped out nearly 50,000 patients over 30 years — and kept her name in the spotlight decades later. source